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UK trade minister in China seeking Brexit boost

By Cecily Liu in London | | Updated: 2018-01-03 02:37
Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox leaves 10 Downing Street, London, on Nov 20. [Photo/Agencies]

Liam Fox, Britain's international trade secretary, begins a three-day visit to China on Wednesday at the same time as the British government announced 25 billion pounds ($34 billion) of funding to support the Belt and Road Initiative.

The money, which was announced on Tuesday, is aimed at supporting British exporters and buyers of the UK's goods in the area covered by the initiative.

The China-proposed initiative seeks to improve connectivity between Asia and Europe. The UK government's investment is aimed at strengthening British exports to the region, but details surrounding the funding have not yet been fleshed out.

Fox's visit is aimed at boosting business links as the United Kingdom battles uncertainty ahead of its departure from the European Union.

The visit, Fox's first international trip of the year, follows the 9th UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue in December, where more than 1.4 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) of business deals were signed.

"China as a world-leading economy and the UK's fifth-largest trading partner is an important market for British companies as we look to build independent trading relationships across the world," Fox said. "As an international economic department, we want 2018 to be the year of exporting, with businesses across the UK seizing the opportunities that the world provides."

Fox's trip comes during a period of strong China-UK trade relations, thanks to the impetus created by the "golden era" of ties that were born during President Xi Jinping's UK visit in 2015.

So far, China has invested a cumulative total of more than $17 billion in the UK, which is more than Chinese investments in any other European country, other than Germany.

Fox will visit Beijing and Shenzhen to meet with government officials and company representatives, including Zhong Shan, the minister of commerce, and Ma Mingzhe, the chairman of Ping An Insurance Group.

Ping An Insurance Group, which is one of China's largest insurers, made its first significant UK investment in 2013 when it bought the Lloyd's of London building for 260 million pounds. In 2015, Ping An bought London office property Tower Place for 327 million pounds.

While in China, Fox will also promote the Festival of Innovation, a trade fair that the British government is hosting in Hong Kong in March. It will promote the latest British technology and British innovations in the creative industries.

In 2016, bilateral trade between China and the UK reached 59.3 billion pounds, of which 16.8 billion pounds were the UK's exports to China.

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